Niagara Gazette

Courts

June 4, 2013

Insurers paying out $5M in fatal 2007 Wheatfield crash

The City of Lockport's insurer will pay a portion of the $5 million settlement award going to two survivors of a horrific 2007 collision involving a tractor trailer, a sport utility vehicle and a city garbage truck in Wheatfield.

Sisters Ashley C. Burgio and Jillian M. Burgio won the award in a settlement approved last week by state Supreme Court Justice Ralph A. Boniello III. 

The women's parents, Randall P. and Rosanne M. Burgio of Wheatfield, were killed, and the women, then ages 22 and 17, were severely injured, in a Sept. 4, 2007, motor vehicle accident on Niagara Falls Boulevard between Ward Road and Maple Drive. According to State Police reports, the Burgios' northbound SUV collided with a southbound semi, spun into a southbound lane and was hit by the Lockport garbage truck.

In 2008, the daughters filed suit against LeRoy Holding Co. Inc., Casa Imports Inc., semi driver James V. Nessia, the City of Lockport and garbage truck driver Roger F. LaRoach.

Terms of the settlement call for LeRoy Holding Co. Inc. to pay $4 million, the city's insurer to pay $700,000, and the insurance carrier for Randall Burgio's estate to pay $300,000 toward the award.

Less legal fees that added up to $1.7 million, the sisters will split the balance of the award, $3.28 million.

After the accident, state police did not issue any traffic tickets to the semi driver or the garbage truck driver.

The settlement agreement also does not place blame for the collisions on any of the involved drivers, including Randall Burgio, according to the city's special attorney in the case, Ted Graney of Webster Szanyi LLP.

The city's insurer agreed to the settlement after the city's bid to be dropped from the suit was denied. Graney said the case was headed for a jury trial, meaning it would have been up to a jury to award damages and apportion blame among any or all of the three drivers.

Considering the accident produced two fatalities and two seriously injured survivors, a jury award could have come in much higher and thus cost the insurers more, according to Graney.

"It's all about the balancing of risk," he said. "The (city's) insurer was protecting the city's interests."

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